Among the issues most commonly discussed are individuality, the rights of the individual, the limits of legitimate government, morality, history, economics, government policy, science, business, education, health care, energy, and man-made global warming evaluations. My posts are aimed at intelligent and rational individuals, whose comments are very welcome.

"No matter how vast your knowledge or how modest, it is your own mind that has to acquire it." Ayn Rand

"Observe that the 'haves' are those who have freedom, and that it is freedom that the 'have-nots' have not." Ayn Rand

"The virtue involved in helping those one loves is not 'selflessness' or 'sacrifice', but integrity." Ayn Rand

14 May 2018

The ethanol gravy train rolls on by Paul Driessen


Opponents make compelling case but can’t derail or even slow this well-protected industry

Like most people I’ve spoken with, I have no innate, inflexible antipathy to ethanol in gasoline. What upsets me are the deceptive claims used to justify adding mostly corn-based ethanol to this indispensable fuel; the way seriously harmful unintended consequences are brushed aside; and the insidious crony corporatist system the ethanol program has spawned between producers and members of Congress.

What angers me are the legislative and regulatory mandates that force us to buy gasoline that is 10% ethanol – even though it gets lower mileage than 100% gasoline, brings none of the proclaimed benefits (environmental or otherwise), drives up food prices, and damages small engines. In fact, in most areas, it’s almost impossible to find E-zero gasoline, and that problem will get worse as mandates increase.

My past articles lambasting ethanol (here, here, here and here) addressed these issues, and said ethanol epitomizes federal programs that taxpayers and voters never seem able to terminate, no matter how wasteful or harmful they become. That’s primarily because its beneficiaries are well funded, motivated, politically connected and determined to keep their gravy train rolling down the tracks – while opponents and victims have far less funding, focus, motivation and ability to reach the decision-making powers.

Ethanol got started because of assertions that even now are still trotted out, despite having outlived their time in the real-world sun. First, we were told, ethanol would be a bulwark against oil imports from unfriendly nations, especially as the USA depleted its rapidly dwindling petroleum reserves. Of course, the fracking (horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing) revolution has given America and the world at least a century of new reserves, and the US now exports more oil and refined products than it imports.

Second, renewable fuels would help prevent dangerous manmade climate change. However, with the 2015-16 El NiƱo temperature spike now gone, average global temperatures are continuing the 20-year no-increase trend that completely contradicts alarmist predictions and models. Harvey was the first major hurricane in a record twelve years to make US landfall. And overall, the evidence-based scientific case for “dangerous manmade climate change” has become weaker with every passing year.
Moreover, the claim that ethanol and other biofuels don’t emit as much allegedly climate-impacting (but certainly plant-fertilizing) carbon dioxide as gasoline has also been put out to pasture. In reality, over their full life cycle (from planting and harvesting crops, to converting them to fuel, to transporting them by truck, to blending and burning them), biofuels emit at least as much CO2 as their petroleum counterparts.
Ironically, the state that grows the most corn and produces the most ethanol – the state whose Republican senators had a fit when EPA proposed to reduce its 2018 non-ethanol biodiesel requirement by a measly 315 million gallons, out of 19.3 billion gallons in total renewable fuels – buys less ethanol-laced gasoline than do average consumers in the rest of the USA. That state is Iowa.

In fact, Iowans bought more ethanol-free gasoline in 2016 than what EPA projects the entire United States will be able to buy in just a few more years, as the E10 mandates ratchet higher and higher.

And so this past week, after months of battles, debates and negotiations, President Trump hosted a White House meeting with legislators The purpose was to address and compromise on at least some of the thorny issues that had put Ted Cruz, Joni Ernst and other politicians at loggerheads, as they sought to reform some aspects of the Renewable Fuel Standards (RFS) system while protecting their constituents.

In an effort to expand the reform agenda, by making legislators and citizens better informed in advance of the meeting, 18 diverse organizations wrote a joint letter to EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, underscoring why they believe broad and significant RFS reform is essential. Signatories included major national meat and poultry producers and processors, restaurants, marine manufacturers, small engine owners, consumer and taxpayer organizations, and conservation and environmental groups. They were especially worried about the prospect that the Congress and Administration might allow year-round sales of 15% (E15) ethanol blends in gasoline, but they raised other pressing concerns as well.

* As large shares of domestic corn and soy crops are now diverted from food use to fuel production, poultry, beef, pork and fish producers (and consumers) face volatile and increasing prices for animal feed.

* Ethanol wreaks havoc on the engines and fuel systems of boats, motorcycles and lawn equipment, as well as many automobiles, which are not capable or allowed to run on E15. Repair and replacement costs are a major issue for marine and small engine owners (as I personally discovered when I owned a boat).

* Consumers and taxpayers must pay increasing costs as biofuel mandates increase under the RFS.

* Millions of acres of native prairie and other ecosystems have been turned into large-scale agricultural developments, because the RFS encourages farmers to plow land, instead of preserving habitats. This endangers ecosystems and species, exacerbates agricultural run-off and degrades water quality.

* Biofuel demand promotes conversion of natural habitats to palm oil and other plantations overseas, as well as domestically. Their life-cycle carbon dioxide emissions rival or exceed those of oil and gas.

* Expanding markets for corn ethanol by increasing E15 sales ignores and exacerbates these problems – while benefiting a small subset of the US economy but negatively impacting far more sectors, including the general public and the industries and interests represented by signatories to the Pruitt letter.

Following the meeting, several signatories expanded on these concerns – and noted that the compromise did increase E15 sales, while reducing the RFS impact on small refineries that were being forced to buy paper biofuel certificates because they weren’t making enough gasoline to need mandated real biofuel.
   
Requiring every American to buy ethanol gasoline “isn’t good enough” for biofuel companies anymore, the National Council of Chain Restaurants remarked. “Now they want a waiver from federal clean air laws so they can sell high blends of ethanol, which pollutes the air in warm weather months, year round.”

“Arbitrarily waiving the E15 [ozone emissions] restriction and permitting year-round E15 sales, without comprehensive reform of the RFS,” merely boosts ethanol sales and justifies future government-imposed increases to the ethanol mandate, the National Taxpayers Union noted. These “hidden taxes,” damage to small engines, and lower gas mileage are “a direct hit” on family budgets, especially for poor families.

The new year-round E15 policy will “cause serious chaos for recreational boaters,” the National Marine Manufacturers Association stated. Over 60% of consumers falsely assume any gasoline sold at retail gas stations must be safe for their equipment. It is essential that EPA launch “a public awareness campaign, improved labeling standards, and new safeguards at the pump that protect American consumers.”

“Granting a Clean Air Act waiver for the corn ethanol industry … would mean doubling down on a policy that has already been a disaster for the environment,” the National Wildlife Federation said. Congress needs to … reform the ethanol mandate before it does more damage.”

“US farmers are in a severe crisis and millions of people around the world are forced to go without food,” ActionAid USA pointed out. “We need policies that guarantee everyone enough food to eat, fair prices for farmers, and protect our environment. Biofuels don’t do that.” In fact, they make the situation far worse.

Unfortunately, a deal was struck. The noisiest and best-connected warring factions got what they wanted. These other pressing concerns were ignored, as the can once again got kicked down the road.

Refiners will now save hundreds of millions of dollars a year, by not having to buy ethanol that they don’t need to blend into the smaller quantities of gasoline they are refining. Corn farmers and ethanol producers will rake in hundreds of millions more a year. All that is good for those industries, their workers and investors, and the politicians who get their campaign contributions.

But what about the rest of America? The Congress, White House and EPA need to address our environmental and pocketbook concerns, too. When will the next negotiating session be held?

Paul Driessen is senior policy analyst for the Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow (www.CFACT.org) and author of books and articles on energy and environmental policy.

My Comments:

I have noted over and over that such special interest legislation and rulings are the standard once the People have accepted the idea that government should hurt some to help others, whether those others are a majority,  underdogs in a society, or the well-connected to government power-holders.  This ancient vision of the purpose of government was replaced in our Declaration of Independence with the principle that government derives its powers from the People for the purpose of protecting their equal, inalienable rights.  By preventing some of the People from exercising their rights for the benefit of some others of the People, the government is violating its legitimate purpose of protecting everyone's equal rights.  Once that principle of equal protection of individual rights is abused, one will always get government destructive of the interests of most of the people most of the time as special interests become the customary beneficiaries, just as they usually were before the American Principle of equal rights for everyone.

The ethanol mandates are one particularly clear case of special interests taking advantage of most of the people and violating their broad right to purchase the goods of their own choosing in a free market.  The fact that the government is so willing to violate this critical principle and impose higher costs, greater inconvenience, and greater environmental damage on the People generally so that some businesses might make more money is an especially egregious example of government that has lost its way.  It is all too clear that this is an example in which many Republicans are very guilty of failing to understand the legitimate function of government.  While I think the Democrats are worse in abusing government power, the Republicans are plenty bad themselves.  Good government only results from a strong commitment by the People to the recognition that government's only legitimate function is to protect every individual's equal right to life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness.  We all have very broad rights to engage in trade, to freedom of conscience, and to freedom of association.  We all have the right to choose our own values and to manage our own lives.  Government exists to prevent the initiated use of force and to minimize the overall use of force within our society.  That is how it achieves the General Welfare -- that is the welfare of each and every American.

As I have proven many times and many ways, the science behind the claims of the catastrophic man-made global warming hypothesis is clearly wrong.  Before such an idea is used to destroy American industries, American jobs, investment value, and to greatly increase consumer costs and inconveniences, it ought to have to prove itself true beyond any reasonable doubt.  It ought to have to answer my critical analysis of its failures to abide by known physics.  The proponents of that theory have never addressed my arguments, though they have called me many names which are meant to be unflattering.




No comments: